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When she handed me her baby, my first grandbaby, I could have sworn - even though he had been born less than 10 minutes ago - that he raised his left eyebrow, winked at me, smiled, and was about to whisper, “Aren’t you glad I finally arrived!”
Instead, he opened his mouth real wide and cried. And once again reality nudged me in the side.
I say once again because reality had pounced on the scene in our lives months before when our youngest daughter, Madi, let us know she was going to be a mother. Lori and I had just settled in for the evening, having gotten home from Wednesday night prayer services at church, and were giggling at the humorous depictions of family life on the TV show, Modern Family. “Isn’t it amazing how they make real life situations so funny,” I was thinking.
Then just after the first commercial, I turned the volume back up, readied myself for laughter, when: wham! It was like Modern Family had jumped from the TV screen into our living room. Only there was no humor in this modern family. Not now. We had gotten the news. It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, knocking the breath out of me.
Madi’s our youngest, still in college: She has high aspirations. And we love her fiancé, John, who is devoted to her and has a good work ethic. But in our minds, the timing was off. Way off.
Our first response was something like code blue alert. While Lori was trying to breathe, I was walking around the room like an Old Testament prophet trying to tear his clothes. If I could have found dust, I would have tossed that up in the air like the ancients did in a show of desperation.
Regaining my composure, or at least calming down enough to administer some aid to Lori, who was still hyperventilating, we took stock of the situation: Neither one of us was ready for grandparenthood; it was supposed to be out there, maybe 10 or 15 years out there. We’re too young for that. Okay, at least Lori is too young for that. Anyway, this was not supposed to happen. Not yet! And we were enraged that these kids had gotten themselves pregnant so young. “They don’t have a clue about what lies ahead,” I whispered to myself as I drifted off to a fitful sleep.
The months passed. Madi stayed in school, and both of them worked hard. Gradually, I realized that young as they are, and as much as they have to learn, they aren’t clueless. They had a plan and were showing commitment to each other and their unborn.
The sonogram revealed our baby was a boy, who soon had a name, Eli. (When they opted for a name from the Hebrew Bible, I suggested Asher, Ehud, Naphtali, or Gad, as possible middle names, but Madi and John passed on those, settling on Eli Benson.)
They met at our home before going to the hospital. I prayed for an easy delivery and a healthy baby. Waving to them as they drove away, I felt like a piece of my heart was leaving with them, and hoped it would return in full measure.
Soon, Lori and I and John’s mother and sister were waiting for Eli’s arrival. A few hours later, like any wimpy man, I returned home to catch a few winks of sleep while the brave women kept watch over Madi who courageously endured labor.
Then Lori called, “You’d better get here.” It was time. Feeling like the disciples who couldn’t stay awake when Jesus needed them most, I threw on my clothes, sped to the hospital, and stood behind a curtain in the delivery room, praying for Madi one more time.
And then we waited outside the room, in the hallway.
Moments later we heard it: the most beautiful noise in the world, at least for us in that moment: a baby’s cry. Within minutes, someone opened the door, motioning for us to come in. Lori held Eli first. Then it was my turn. Tears welled up in my eyes, and once again, I could hardly breathe.
Heaven descends on earth when you cradle a newborn in your arms. And time stops. Then it starts again, reminding us that God has his timing, beyond our own, that he is in control and can sometimes shower us with droplets of his grace through the birth of a baby.
Editor’s note: Contact David B. Whitlock, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.davidbwhitlock.com.